NEW YORK—ECPs are focused on communicating with patients while they work remotely, coping with the human and business impact of having furloughed much of their staff and concentrating on applying for CARES Act assistance as they look for help and advice about how best to tackle reopening their practices when the crisis abates. These are among the learnings from ECPs illustrated by the fifth wave of the Jobson Research ECP Coronavirus Study, completed this week, April 7-9.

The survey generated 1,306 responses from among 61.7 percent optometrists, 31.5 percent opticians/dispensers and others. The majority, 65.3 percent were representing single locations, while 20 percent were from practices with 2 to 3 locations, 5.4 percent from practices with 4 to 10 locations and 9.3 percent from practices with 10 locations or more. Sixty percent of the respondents were owners/decision makers in regards to closing offices/access, comparable to the prior surveys.

The April 7-9 survey was compared, when possible, to four prior surveys conducted by Jobson Research in response to the coronavirus crisis, beginning March 13-17.

Nearly 90 percent (89.9 percent) of the respondents are in localities with stay-at-home orders. Of the practices, 73 percent said they have remained in touch with patients via phone calls, 51.6 percent by sending emails, 38.4 percent by sending text messages and 51.7 percent by updating social media.

Among the respondents, 51.4 percent say that their patients are rescheduling appointments. In the latest wave this week, the majority of respondents, some 60.4 percent, said they were rescheduling appointments now for May, an increase from the 4th ECP survey wave (March 28-30) when 44.9 percent were rescheduling for May. In the latest survey, 24.9 percent said they were rescheduling appointments for June, almost twice the number that had indicated June in the March 28-30 survey, while 4.2 percent said they were rescheduling to July, another 1.1 percent said August and 2.3 percent said they were going out to September for rescheduling.

Staff layouts have occurred at 56.2 percent of the practices responding. This represented an increase from the prior two survey periods.The latest survey reflecting these layoffs affected a quarter of their staff for 10.6 percent of the respondents, while 11.8 percent said the had to lay off about half of their staff. However, for 38.3 percent of respondents, more than three quarters of the staff was let go and 39.4 percent said all had to be laid off.

Telehealth continues to generate more interest among patients, ECPs said. In this latest survey, 38.7 percent of patients are interested in accessing telehealth services from practices, respondents report. That's a marked increase from the 17.3 percent who said patients were interested March 13-17 and the 20.8 percent from March 18-19. In the latest survey, 81.1 percent of respondents that are offering telehealth use phone-based consultations and 78.6 percent are using image/video consults now.

Nearly 50 percent of respondents have now applied for relief from the CARES Act and many, 65.6 percent, said they have received more lenient terms from suppliers among several support programs they are accessing.

The priority among ECPs for where they are looking for help and advice now? In its highest levels, nearly 65 percent of respondents are seeking help/advice about how to gear back up when their practices reopen.

The 5th Wave of the Jobson ECP Coronavirus Study is available to be downloaded for no charge here.